Importance: The World Health Organization estimates that the 1 billion individuals who smoke worldwide contribute to the 880 000 secondhand smoke (SHS)–related deaths among individuals who do not smoke each year. A better understanding of the scale of harm of SHS to those who do not smoke could increase awareness of the consequences of smoking and help to design measures to protect individuals who do not smoke, especially children.
Objective: To calculate the number of individuals who smoke associated with the death of 1 individual who died of SHS exposure both on a global scale and in various World Bank regions.
Design, Setting, and Participants: In this cross-sectional epidemiologic assessment, data from Our World in Data were used to tabulate the number of individuals who smoke in each country and number of premature deaths related to SHS in that country from 1990 to 2016. The mean number of cigarettes consumed in all countries was also included in analyses. Data were collected for the following World Bank regions: North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific from 1990 and 2016. Statistical analysis was conducted in July 2019.
Exposure: Secondhand smoke.
Main Outcomes and Measures: The pack-year index, calculated as the number of pack-years associated with the death of 1 individual who does not smoke but was exposed to SHS, and the SHS index, calculated as the number of individuals who smoked for 24 years (ie, the mean duration of smoking) associated with the death of 1 individual who does not smoke.
Results: Globally, the SHS index changed favorably, from 31.3 (95% CI, 30.6-32.0) individuals who smoked associated with the death of 1 individual who did not smoke in 1990 to 52.3 (95% CI, 51.2-53.5) individuals who smoked in 2016. There was a wide regional variation in the 2016 secondhand smoke index, from 42.6 (95% CI, 41.6-43.5) individuals who smoked in the Middle East and North Africa to 85.7 (95% CI, 83.8-87.7) individuals who smoked in North America. Worldwide, the pack-year index also changed favorably from 751.9 (95% CI, 736.3-770.7) pack-years associated with 1 death in 1990 to 1255.9 (95% CI, 1227.2-1284.4) pack-years in 2016.
Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, the substantial disparity among regions in both the SHS index and pack-year index reflected large differences in the scale of the harm of SHS on those who do not smoke. This information may help local policy makers implement measures to better protect those who do not smoke and increase public engagement. Although the number of pack-years and the number of individuals who smoke associated with the death of 1 individual who did not smoke favorably changed over the study period, as of 2016, 52.3 individuals who smoked were associated with the death of 1 individual who did not smoke.